Houston man wanted for questioning in Walmart threat

December 24, 2013
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Francesca Sacco / Observer-Reporter
Washington police officers and Washington County sheriff’s deputies were among those patrolling Tuesday morning outside Walmart at Trinity Point after a telephone threat was made against the store. Order a Print
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Charles Martin

A Houston man is wanted for questioning after police said they believe he called Walmart at Trinity Point shopping center in South Strabane Township and threatened to open fire on the store Tuesday morning.

Charles Martin, 24, is wanted for questioning by South Strabane police in connection with the threat. Township police Chief Donald Zofchak initially said the department had a “person of interest” around midday. That person was cleared.

Zofchak said a man who was irate over transactions at Walmart called the store about 9 a.m. and threatened to open fire there.

Officers from eight neighboring departments assisted South Strabane on the scene, converging on the store’s parking lot, watching entrances and cruising the lot while efforts were made to trace the call.

Zofchak said the incident was defused within a couple of hours. Officers stationed at the store had been removed or scaled back by noon Tuesday. No arrests had been made.

“Our main concern was safety,” Zofchak said. “We can sort the rest out later.”

Walmart officials declined to comment, but the store remained open during the incident. Employees and customers seemed oblivious to the situation. Many shoppers thought the half dozen or so cruisers parked amidst the busy crowd were there for something less serious.

“I’m not surprised this time of year to see so many cops,” said John Skolnekovich of Washington. “Everyone goes crazy.”

Skolnekovich thought the heavy police presence was to ward off shoplifters, although he didn’t seem shocked when he found out why they were really there.

“I wouldn’t be surprised,” he said. “Every other day you hear about something like this. It’s all over, and it’s a shame.”

Jessica Doulis of North Franklin said Walmart employees acted normally while she shopped. She said she was not aware of the issue and that employees didn’t notify her of the possible threat.

“Everything seemed pretty normal,” she said. “I wasn’t aware anything was going on.”

Anyone with information on Martin’s whereabouts is asked to call 911.

Francesca Sacco joined the Observer-Reporter as a staff writer in November 2013, and covers the Washington County Courthouse and education. Prior to working with the Observer-Reporter, Francesca was a staff writer with a Gannett paper in Ohio. She graduated from Point Park University with a dual bachelor’s degree in print and broadcast journalism.

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